Thiruvananthapuram: On February 2 this year, the social justice department had written to superintendents of children’s homes in all 14 districts seeking certain information as a prelude to starting after-care homes for boys above the age of 18.
Most of the superintendents did not respond, exposing a division in the department on ways to provide aftercare support to boys who move out of children’s homes after they turn 18.
The government wants homes in all districts for the boys to move in after they cross 18 years, when they can no longer stay in these homes. But field-level officers, who had worked in institutional care, insist that aftercare support is a better option.
“Institutional care will wreck the individuality of a child,” a probation officer who had worked in children’s homes said. “More than 90 percent of boys in the state’s homes have their own homes to return to, or at least the homes of close relatives. It would be better if the state kept them in these homes and provided them with regular social, financial and psychological help,” the officer said.
Field level officials felt that if at all after-care homes are required for boys, it should be limited to three, one each in the north, central and southern parts of the state.
“As for the kids lodged in homes, they should be provided holistic support. We should ensure that they have ration cards, and assess the emotional and psychological condition of their parents and provide adequate medical and other support,” the officer said.
It is also a fact that deinstitutionalization initiatives like ‘Snehapoorvam’ and sponsorship programmes of the centre have weaned children away from welfare institutions. The Kozhikode home, for instance, had 200 kids five years ago. Now, it has just 42. The Thiruvananthapuram home, which had 100 kids, now has just 37.
At the moment, there is just one ‘after care’ home for males, in Thalassery. This home has just 10-12 inmates though it is meant for 50.
“The low intake does not mean there is low requirement for such a facility. It just shows that it is out of bounds for many who desperately need a roof over their head,” a top Social Justice official said....